I first met James two years ago while following the making of my DB Prince of Wales suit at Henry Poole. (You can see that full series here.) As with most the Row’s apprentices, he has a passion for clothing that extends far beyond his day-to-day work, which of course is what this series of posts is intended to highlight. It’s also what makes me optimistic about the future of the bespoke tailoring.
Where do you work, doing what, and how long have you been there?
I’m currently an apprentice coat maker at Henry Poole & Co. I’ve been there for two and a half years.
How did you get into bespoke?
At school I studied fine art, textiles, history and drama. I have always been interested in fashion and ‘making’ – always making!
My family is steeped in the textiles industry in Ireland, producing linen, hence the originally Scottish surname ‘Weir’ from my father’s side, which referred to the water used to power their small linen mill. My mother’s family was also involved in fashion/couture and on my grandfather’s side fine textiles in northern Italy.
I knew that I wanted to be a tailor from my early teens. I’ve always been fascinated generally by construction of anything that fits the body, and I altered my own clothes when I was at school to my own style and fitting. After finishing A-Levels I came to London and walked into Henry Poole & Co. I had previously been to London doing research for my A-Levels and several times walked down Savile Row, but never gone in to any of the companies there. That day I was given an informal interview – I suppose they liked the look of me and what they hoped I had to offer. Events progressed quickly and I was working at Henry Poole & Co as an apprentice just a few weeks later.
What do you like about Savile Row?
I am interested in the history, the making of bespoke garments and the Row’s place in the context of tailoring. I think that Savile Row is about continuity and tradition and this is an important part of what it stands for.
I also like the idea that it’s a place men – and nowadays women – can come to have something of incredible craftsmanship made exactly for them. It’s a place you can have a one to one, and men especially don’t have this service as much as women do. I think that’s why a lot of men like to have a garment made for them, and Savile Row allows this to happen. I also enjoy working with the finest cloth and learning from the incredible skills the tailors, cutters and finishers have; it’s a great honour.
Describe your style, in terms of cut, cloth and colour.
I like clean cut, pared down garments, with little touches and embellishments of things such as silk and touches of the eccentric.
What’s your favourite style of suit?
I love three-button coats. There’s something terribly old fashioned about them.
What’s your favourite cloth and why?
I’d say traditional modern tweeds, such as Donegal and Yorkshire tweeds. I love outrageous Scottish tartans for their garishness, and herringbone tweeds and twills. The slubbier the better. It might sound clichéd but I like a modern twist on traditional cloth.
Silk is somthing I collect, but that’s a whole different ball game.
What’s your favourite piece of tailoring that you own?
Last year I made myself a three-piece Donegal tweed suit. Although I live in London my home is in Derbyshire in the Peak District and I love wearing it! For me cloths are meant to be worn and I like cloths which age in time; it’s what I would call the life of clothing.
What’s your favourite accessory?
Ties and bow ties, made from silk, cotton or wool, depending on the season. Texture is crucial.
What do you wear at the weekend?
Jeans and John Smedley fine merino knits. Also my Donegal if I feel like it.
What designer brands do you like?
Good quality vintage men’s stuff. I am also a huge fan of John Smedley as its part of Derbyshire and I’ve been wearing it for years. Then Tom Ford, Ossie Clarke …
What blogs or websites do you go on?
I don’t really follow fashion blogs, but do I read lots of books, flick through magazines and watch people around me.